Handbook of Cognition and Emotion

By Tim Dalgleish; Mick J. Power | Go to book overview

Chapter 24
Sadness and Its Disorders

Mick J. Power
University of Edinburgh, Royal Edinburgh Hospital, Edinburgh, UK


INTRODUCTION

Crying, fear and anger are so common as to be virtually ubiquitous and most
cultures provide social sanction for the expression of these emotions in the funeral
rites and customs of mourning which follow bereavement. In this respect, Western
cultures, which tend to discourage the overt expression of emotion at funerals, are
highly deviant. They differ from most other societies and from our own society as it
was a hundred years ago (Parkes, Laungani & Young, 1997, p. 5).

The more extreme variants of sadness, such as grief, bereavement and mourning, or disorders derived from sadness, such as depression, have been widely studied in psychology, although the milder everyday variants have received little attention (cf. Stearns, 1993). Power & Dalgleish (1997) have suggested that the focus on the extreme and the abnormal may perhaps represent something of our cultural problems with sadness and its expression. It must be noted, though, that much of what we think about as sadness should more correctly be viewed as sadness combined with other basic emotions, such as fear, anger or disgust, because of the fact that sadness seems to be the basic emotion that most readily combines with the other basic emotions (Oatley & Duncan, 1992). For example, a common procedure used to study “sadness” in the laboratory is to use a mood induction procedure such as the Velten card technique (Velten, 1968), in which the subject reads through a list of statements along the lines of “I'm worthless”, “I'm a failure” and so on. Such lists encourage a state of self-criticism which is not a defining feature of sadness, although it is a defining feature of the more complex state of depression. The experience of “pure” sadness without such self-criticism is phenomenologically very distinct from depression; for example, when the

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